Old Feb 8, 19, 12:14 pm
William Agius
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 281
Mission accomplished: Abu Dhabi to Heathrow - Business Class on the A 380



The course with Etihad was good fun and went by really quickly. The people attending the course were easy going and really impressed me by their professionalism. Of course, it also helps that the Etihad training facilities near the airport are modern, with well-equipped classrooms. On Thursday afternoon we finish around lunch, and I even get to take the tour of the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, which is quite dazzling. The white marble is so bright that I can hardly stand to look at the building, itís literally blinding. But on Monday the next course will be starting in Luxembourg, so itís high time for me to leg it back Europe. Which is a shame really, because the weather here in Abu Dhabi has been a delight this last week, with pleasantly mild temperatures hovering around 25 degrees Celsius.

Being the weekend, thereís hardly any traffic on the roads. Which means we manage to make the journey to the airport in just over fifteen minutes. The trip from the Hilton Capitol to the airport will cost you roughly UAD50.

Terminal 3 is dedicated to Etihad Airways and there are separate entrances for First and Business Class passengers. The Business Class area of the terminal is calm. It looks rather elegant. There are seven counters open when I arrive. Right next to check-in, there is a dedicated Fast Track for immigration and right behind that the security check. Most of Etihadís flying out of Abu Dhabi occurs during the night time, which is probably why the airport is surprisingly quiet, given the size of the facility.

The Etihad Business Class lounge is located opposite gate 35, and itís enormous. There is a wide selection of hot and cold dishes to choose from at the buffet, ranging from Indian to Japanese, Western and Arab dishes. There are also, as far as I can tell, three bars. Although only one of them is currently open. I have a bit of lunch, seeing as the flight will not be departing until 13h45 and Iím not likely to eat anything before about 15h00. By the time I demolish my plate (I seem to be developing a serious liking for mash in my old age) I decide to check out the Six Senses Spa, also located in the lounge. I still have slightly more than an hour to go before boarding begins, so I figure I might as well treat myself to a full body massage of one hour.

My flight is departing from gate 33. At the entrance to the gate, my passport is first checked, followed by a secondary security check during which all electronic devices youíre carrying on you will be briefly switched on and checked. And then Iím free to board.

Iím seated on 12A, which is the same seat I had on the outbound flight from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. This cabin configuration is starting to grow on me, I must say. I really like the abundance of storage space, which allows you to keep everything you might need during the flight within easy reach. Whatís more, no matter how many passengers there are in the cabin, it never seems full or crowded.

Iím told that Etihad have a crew complement of 22 in the cabin for their Airbus A 380. Todayís crew is yet another interesting mix of ethnicities and races. Theyíre not exactly warm or personable at first, but theyíre professional and courteous in the way they go about their duty.

A blanket, a pillow, the menu and the vanity kit have already been placed at my seat when I arrive. No sooner have I settled in, the crew bring me a rose scented hot towel and a glass of lemon and mint juice, which are both very refreshing.Just before we push back, the crew pass through the cabin taking orders for drinks after departure.

Once the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off, the service begins, and Iím brought a ramekin of warm nuts and another glass of the lemon and mint juice. The service is ŗ l carte, and passengers have the option when theyíd like to eat.
First course
Mezze Ė muhammara, hummus, a filled grape leaf, tabbouleh and a pastry filled with a feta like cheese and served with a slice of lemon.This dish tastes much better than the one I hand on my way down to Abu Dhabi, Iím guessing thatís because this dish was locally made in the UAE. Especially the muhammara is very good and the lemon gives it a refreshing twist. The first course is served on a tray, together with the breads, butter, olive oil and salt and pepper shakers.
Main course
Rigatoni with a sugo of sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic pesto, parmigiano and fresh basil.When the flight attendant arrives with my main course, I comment on the fact that I think itís a shame the airlines tend not to serve spicy food and that the only thing missing for my main course is a bit of spice. The flight attendant puts my plate down and then rather abruptly dashes off. He returns just a short while later with a bottle of Tobasco for me, which I think is pretty cool and a very nice gesture. The dish is exceptionally good. The sugo has a lovely tangy flavour that is perfectly balanced with the pesto and you can actually still taste the fresh basil.
Almond and pistachio pudding with butterscotch sauce.Instead of one of those horrific gelatinous blobs of tasteless gunk that most airlines seem to serve these days (Öand rather unconvincingly disguise as Ďmousseí), Etihad makes the effort to offer a real dessert. And sweet baby J., itís divine! Itís still warm and the texture is just so dense and rich. Gorgeous!

The amenity kit is the same one as I had on the outbound flight, only this one is in yellow and not black.

About eighty minutes out of Heathrow, the cabin lights slowly start to go on again and the crew come through the cabin asking passengers if thereís anything theyíd like from the menu before they start preparing the cabin for landing. Iím still quite full from lunch, so I just order some ice cream and leave it at that. Originally, weíre scheduled to arrive at 17h15. But traffic in Heathrow is busy and so we end up doing two laps in a holding pattern north-east of the capital before we are eventually released for the approach. By the time we land, itís already 17h45. Terminal 4 is much busier than when I left and there are people everywhere. But still I manage, and before long Iím through security and on my way to the SkyTeam lounge.
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